By Terrence McCoy
By Allie Conti
By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
Finally, meet Ulric Shannon, a seventeen-year-old Montrealer who's determined to be the Grand Synthesizer of the case. Shannon started at age thirteen, when he wrote a history theme on Kennedy, "dutifully relaying the conclusions of the Warren Report." Since then he claims to have read 50 books that debunk the official story, and to him, getting-of-wisdom requires total print immersion. Over the next fifteen years, Shannon says in a phone interview, he plans to read everything written about the case, including all the available relevant documents. The tyro (or his mother, who actively encourages his interest and once took him on a dream vacation to the hallowed JFK assassination shrines in Dallas) recently paid $1000 for the hard-to-find 26 volumes of hearings and exhibits released by the Warren Commission in 1964. "I want to be ready to summarize everything we know, sometime in the 21st Century," Shannon proclaims.
Good luck, brave Frostback. The 26 vols alone come to an eye-bulging 20,000 pages, and they are, in a sense, merely a summary of the humongous holdings at the National Archives (which also owns gruesome 3-D artifacts, such as JFK's clothing and the rifle used to kill him). Weisberg's document holdings come to some 250,000 pages. Jim Lesar of the Assassination Archives Research Center in Washington, D.C., whose collection overlaps Weisberg's somewhat, estimates that he has 500,000 pages of documents, news clips, and letters that pertain to the JFK case. Famed Dallas archivist Mary Ferrell, an elderly housewife who has meticulously saved clips and facts since The Day Of, now has more than 40,000 index cards jammed with essential info. Her unique collection is housed in a back-yard office/shed guarded by a small but tenacious "black chow dog." Fortunately for Shannon, Ferrell is spending her golden years whapping this data into a computer, for ultimate access by buffs around the world, using a custom-designed archiving program that she calls, understatedly, JFK: Index.
And while young Shannon is at it, he needs to read some of the "lesser-known" books that the allegedly exhaustive Library of Congress, with its slight bias against crank literature, might not have. He can get a complete listing, with price quotes, from the Last Hurrah Bookshop in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. (Even Last Hurrah isn't infallible. Its most recent catalogue fails to list "The Great Paradox." This poem, inked by Pearl Cline and printed in Marguerite Oswald's vanity-published Aftermath of an Execution, suggests that Lee Harvey Oswald, Christ-like, died for our sins.) But among the more obscure entries he really shouldn't miss are:
Sherlock Holmes in Dallas. ("Scarce novel on JFK assassination.")
The Kennedy Tapes. ("This mint audio tape contains a docudrama of deathbed confession by a second gunman who allegedly assassinated JFK.")
Were We Controlled? ("Possibility of Oswald as robot.")
Assassination Rhapsody. ("An artistic/literary interpretation of the Warren Report.")
Heartland. (By Mort Sahl, "First entertainer to question official accounts of JFK, RFK deaths.")
Satan's Assassins. ("Oswald & Sirhan controlled by occult?")
The Illuminoids. ("History of Illuminati & role in JFK assassination & other plots.")
As you're probably gathering, JFK assassinology is a dense jungle full of many different tribes - some at peace, some at war - and it's riddled with paths that swallow up entire lives. Oliver Stone and his staff had to enter boldly into this crowded marketplace of ideas and make selections. Stone's detractors, of course, say he picked all the rotten and hollow melons, but before we get to all that, we need to undergo a basic intelligence briefing of our own. Let's start with a speedy review of the crucial 1963-1979 era.
All hands can agree on this statement: On November 22, 1963, at 12:30 p.m., while riding in an open limousine through Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas, JFK was killed. But beyond that it's hard to broaden the consensus. Can't one at least state that Lee Harvey Oswald was in Dallas that day? With an ecumenical spirit, no. One researcher faction says Oswald never came back from his 1959 defection to the Soviet Union and was replaced by the "Oswald" we knew, a Soviet double named Alek Hidell. (Standing virtually alone on this, the late Mae Brussell said the real Oswald still lives in Akron, Ohio, using the name Dan Norton.)
A week after the crime, LBJ created the Warren Commission - among the seven members were Chief Justice Earl Warren and two men whose names reverberate suspiciously even now: Rep. Gerald Ford (a factor in the Nixon-did-it scenarios), and long-time CIA Director Allen Dulles (whom JFK fired after the Bay of Pigs disaster). Early in the proceedings, Dulles helpfully brought in a history book, which argued that most American assassins were lone nuts. The following September, the commission reported its finding that Oswald, a lone nut, killed Kennedy, firing a 6.5mm Mannlicher-Carcano rifle three times from a sixth-floor window of the Texas School Book Depository. One shot hit JFK in the neck; one missed; and the third, deadly shot struck him in the head. During his flight from the Depository to the eventual scene of his arrest - the Texas Theater - Oswald encountered and killed an unlucky Dallas patrolman, J.D. Tippit.